A big gamble or an astute strategy?




Can KCR be the Grand Master of Politics in 2024? KCR is not a politician who does things without a reason.

Can KCR be the Grand Master of Politics in 2024? KCR is not a politician who does things without a reason. His plan to enter national politics stems from his ambition to fill a vacuum caused by a lack of formidable opposition to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the centre.

Still doubts are being raised. K Chandrashekar Rao is known for his deft political moves and is a man who is always ready to adapt himself to the changing situation. He firmly believes that in politics ideology is important not the means. There can be no permanent friends of foes in politics.

If we take a quick peep into the political journey of KCR, he started with his career with Youth Congress, left it in 1984 when NTR formed TDP and was with the party till 2001. He rebelled against TDP when he was not inducted in the cabinet and resigned from the party and the post of Deputy Speaker and launched the fight for separate Telangana. He succeeded in mobilising support from all quarters and all political parties finally walked with him and in 2014, the Congress-led UPA government passed the AP State Re-Organisation Bill 2014 and bifurcated the state at the stroke of midnight.

But then that was a fight based on sentiment that Telangana region was neglected and ignored by Andhra rulers and it can progress only if there was self-rule. The TRS had a single point agenda of creating a separate state. Now after the conversion of the pink party into BRS, several big questions arise. The first and foremost is will he manage to capture any space in national politics; whether KCR's leadership will be accepted in other states, especially in the north.

KCR undoubtedly has extraordinary oratory skills and can narrate issues in story format and convince the people. But will that work now? In the last eight years he has been known for maintaining distance from media and meeting them only when he has something to say. Can he continue with the same style of functioning now after foraying into national politics?

Back in Telangana, KCR is known for holding press conferences for two hours at a stretch and on many occasions, the reporters were rebuked if they had raised some uncomfortable questions. Will the media in the Hindi belt and in Delhi remain captive audience like here? KCR believes that he would succeed in winning the support of support of women, farmers, and marginalised groups with several welfare schemes. Is that so easy?

Several analysts also surmise the idea as an exercise to fortify his party base in the state – where the BJP is making inroads and intensifying political activity ahead of 2023 assembly polls – by shifting focus to national issues. Some, like Prof Kodandaram, feel that it would be a misadventure.

At the time of passing the resolution to change the name of TRS to BRS, it was said that the JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy had extended his support to the new party and both would be working together to take on the BJP. But now Kumaraswamy ruled out the possibility of BRS contesting the assembly seats in Karnataka. He said JD(S) would seek the help of KCR who can make impact in about 15 to 20 Assembly seats in bordering districts. Last time the JD (S) had won four seats and with the support of KCR they may win around 15 seats. He also made it clear that JD (S) would contest over 100 seats in Karnataka. JD(S) would support BRS in a couple of Lok Sabha seats in the bordering districts.

Kumaraswamy told media that if voted to power, his party would implement the schemes like Rythu Bandhu and Dalit Bandhu in Karnataka. Analysts say that this was a strategic statement to pre-empt BRS campaign line. He does not want his voter base to get eroded at any cost.

Showcasing the schemes of Telangana is only a very small aspect. The question is how KCR will handle issues like optimum utilisation of water. He himself has been claiming that people in the country are waiting for irrigation and safe drinking water despite the availability of 70,000 tmcft of water. But then unlike national power grid, we do not have a national water grid and it is not easy to create one. Even Telangana and Andhra are not able to resolve the water dispute for the past eight years. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are unable to resolve the water dispute for several decades. How would BRS be able to handle this issue and what would be the formula to utilise 70,000 tmcft of water that is available?

Creating political hype these days using electronic, print and social media is not a big problem for any political party but at the ground level there are certain hard realities one must face. Within 24 hours of renaming TRS as BRS, huge hoardings of BRS with KCR came up at certain places in Vijayawada and Guntur to create an impression that many people particularly those from AP Congress party would jump on to BRS. Now, here the issue is about Polavaram. Telangana has been claiming that backwaters of Polavaram project would cause submergence of Bhadrachalam and demanded that the five gram panchayats that were merged with Andhra be restored to Telangana. Can BRS say that it will give away those five panchayats and would reduce the height of Polavaram project?

KCR certainly has an identity as Chief Minister at the national level, but is it enough to build a national party? Can BRS catapult itself into a pole position ahead of 2024 if all anti-BJP parties decide to unite? KCR has for long been championing the idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP opposition. What will be the stand of BRS towards Congress? KCR has been accusing the BJP and Congress that they have different stances on many issues. Can BRS adopt one nation one policy on all issues?

The journey from regional party to national party is not a smooth one. Let us take the example of AIMIM which is primarily Hyderabad-based party. It has been trying very hard to gain footprint in other states and thereby emerge as a national party but so far it could not get more than 0.43 per cent vote share at national level. AIMIM and Telugu Desam Party are registered national parties but could not make much headway. Both did not rename their parties.

It certainly is a big gamble by KCR. Even parties like SP, BSP, RJD, JD (U) and others from the Hindi heartland could not emerge as national parties though they have been playing a national role through alliance building or by becoming pressure groups.

Though there may be some smaller parties which may merge with BRS, at the national level, none of the major parties would take such a decision. Presuming that BRS will enter into an alliance with them, at least till 2029 elections, it will have to remain contended with seat adjustments which may not cross double digit. How many it will win, only time will tell.

If we look at the political scenario in Maharashtra and Gujarat, howsoever friendly some leaders like Uddhav Thackeray or the 80-plus former Gujarat CM Shankar Sinh Vaghela may be, they will not merge with BRS. At the most they may agree to give a couple of seats and have an alliance.

In the recent past, KCR has met several regional party leaders including JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda, NCP's Sharad Pawar, TMC's Mamata Banerjee, AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and others, and has been rooting for a non-BJP, non-Congress' alliance.

The argument that individually the small regional parties have not been able to assert themselves effectively at the national level but collectively they can and will replace the traditional Opposition to become a formidable opposition could not gain much traction as most of them maintain that there can be no united opposition without Congress and KCR is not willing to accommodate Congress.

Some feel that irrespective of the outcome at the national level, it is a win-win situation as KCR has nothing to lose. But it cannot be dismissed so easily. KCR will have to tell the people that look it is a long battle and one cannot expect wonders overnight. It is just a beginning not the end. Though the schemes he had announced for Dalits, Tribals, farmers and recent decision to increase reservations for Scheduled Tribes from 6 per cent to 10 per cent may win accolades at national level, converting it into votes would an uphill task at least during the 2024 elections.

Some say that KCR is known to be a pro-Muslim leader. And that their vote bank is about 14 per cent in the country. But then there are other parties like Congress, BSP and AIMIM with which BRS will have to compete.

Time will tell whether KCR's gamble of renaming his party will help in achieving his ambition or will turn out to be a mere misadventure.

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